Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

How aerosol formation helps brighten clouds, balance climate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerosols

Mains level : Role of aerosols in maintaining Earth temperature

  • Small aerosol particles help in “brightening” of clouds, enabling them to alter Earth’s radiative balance and ultimately its climate, according to a study.

What is Aerosol?

  • An aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets, in air or another gas.
  • Aerosols can be natural or anthropogenic. Examples of natural aerosols are fog, dust, forest exudates and geyser steam.
  • Examples of anthropogenic aerosols are haze, particulate air pollutants and smoke.

Formation in atmosphere

  • When deep, convective clouds in the tropics carry gases high into the atmosphere, they form small aerosol particles in a process called gas-to-particle conversion.
  • As they condense, they grow big enough to brighten lower-level cloud in the lower troposphere.
  • This gas-to-particle conversion brightens clouds in the tropics over both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Why are they significant?

  • These brighter clouds reflect more energy from the sun back to space.
  • Further, this formation of new particle covers about 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface, which means some of the current climate models underestimate the cooling impact of some clouds.
  • Understanding how these particles form and contribute to cloud properties in the tropics will help us better represent clouds in climate models and improve those models.
  • The study showed that in remote places with cleaner air, the effect of aerosol particle formation on clouds was found to be much larger,
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